She is also our teacher about Crimea, the land, geography, the towns, the beauty and culture, and especially the Crimean Tatars Many of us have visited in her city and at her work site, the Ismail Gasprinsky Crimean Tatar Library, and enjoyed hikes and excursions around Crimea. I had a memorable trip from Simferopol to Bachysaray, Yevpretoria, and Yalta on the Black Sea (famous site of the World War II conference between Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill). Breathtakingly beautiful, and so rich in history. Barb has hiked the mountains and forests, and explored every nook and cranny.
She has become an important part of the Tatar community, developing strong friendships and relationships, helping computerize and modernize the library, increasing its outreach, learning the people's history and struggles, and supporting their contemporary role in rebuilding the community from which they were once forcibly exiled by Stalin. The Tatar people have returned to Crimea, their homeland, after more than 30 years. It's a harrowing story, of a community brutally demolished, lives shattered, families separated. It's also a story of courage, the persistence of traditions, and achievement against the odds. The struggle continues.
So many of us have learned about this story of forced exile and return through Barb, and about the Gasprinsky Library, where she has made enormous contributions. The Library's goal is to preserve the memorabilia, artifacts, newspapers, traditions and stories of the Crimean Tatar people, to keep the memories alive, to remember the past so as to shape the future. Barb has wholeheartedly shared and advanced this goal.
Below is one of her many blogs about the Library, this one focused on its founder, Ismail Gasprinsky, a brilliant and thoughtful man ahead of his times, as Barb tells us. He reminds me of the Islamic poet Rumi, a man of depth, a source of wisdom. I was moved by his life and purpose when I visited the Library. I hope you will be, too.